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Last night over dinner Walter Blackstock politely expressed some concerns about how the Azimuth Project can have a significant effect.
For starters, he said he was pessimistic about people taking serious action against global warming until it's "too late" — too late to prevent it, that is.
I told him I agreed completely, and that this pessimism underlies all my thinking about Azimuth. I imagine that as time passes, the climate will start getting noticeably bad, and popular pressure wil increasingly push governments to get serious about global warming. The governments will wish they'd done something sooner. They will do a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing. But hopefully they will start trying to do something. Some will say it is "too late". It will indeed be too late to prevent global warming, and very hard to reverse it. But nonetheless, it will not be too late to do something that has some useful effect.
And at this point — not a sharply defined moment — it will be useful to have a bunch of scientists and engineers who know a lot about the problems and what to do about them. Ideally there would even be some sort of rough consensus about a lot of questions like:
1) should we build a lot of nuclear reactors? what kind?
2) should we produce a lot of biofuels? what kind?
3) should we produce a lot of solar power? how?
4) should we produce a lot of wind energy? how?
5) how can we best conserve energy?
and so on. And ideally there would be an overall strategy mapped out, and groups of people with expertise on different aspects.
So, my idea is that the Azimuth Project should help:
1) get lots of students interested in these issues
2) get lots of scientists and engineers interested
3) accumulate expert knowledge
4) lay it out in a way that's very easy to absorb and navigate
5) make it easy for scientists and engineers to find important projects to work on
and maybe even
6) start figuring out an overall strategy.
Walter was focused on part 6). He said we should figure out what's really important, what will really work, and not waste much time on secondary stuff.
(He didn't say it in boldface, in fact he was quite apologetic about it. But I think it's true and important.)
For example, he said, people just aren't going to grind up 48 gigatons of serpentine a year to absorb CO2. You have to find stuff that people will actually do — presumably because something is in it for them! For example: we should be building lots of nuclear power plants.
So if someone wants to spend time writing articles about enhanced weathering that's fine, but we should try to map out some priorities and focus on the really important stuff — the stuff that might work.